[Huntington Beach, California} We appreciate the Huntington Beach Fire Department (HBFD) and Huntington Beach Police Department (HBPD) conducting their investigations. We are relieved to hear they do not consider it an intentional fire. It does point to the inadequate security and lack of care and maintenance by the current property owner, Republic Services.
We will request copies of the full investigation reports. We hope those reports will provide more details about the details of the demolition of the two structures, not mentioned in the HBFD and HBPD news release.
An important clarification on the statement that HBFD was "able to limit the amount of damage and protect the church." One church was lost.
- There were two church or sanctuary structures on the property. There is now only one.
- The 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission is a church. The 1910 Manse was used as a parsonage for both the 1910 Mission and the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church for half a century, up until the 1960s when the congregation moved to a new location in Santa Ana.
- The 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church structure with its cornerstone is the only visible and only remaining church structure at the corner of Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane. The 1910 Mission and 1910 Manse structures were hidden from public view, directly behind the 1934 Church structure.
LEFT: A portion of the official ALTA survey conducted for the Historic Wintersburg property in 2004 by a licensed surveyor. The survey map shows two distinct structures for the 1910 Mission and the 1910 Manse, each also noted separately as two of the six historic structures at Historic Wintersburg in the City of Huntington Beach General Plan. An ALTA survey is a detailed land parcel map, showing all existing improvements of the property, utilities, and significant observations, and must be signed on the document by the licensed surveyor with the name of the engineering firm. The ALTA survey for Historic Wintersburg is a public document of the City of Huntington Beach. (City of Huntington Beach, ANACAL Engineering Co., November 9, 2004)
- Also to clarify, all six structures at Historic Wintersburg are designated as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in the City of Huntington Beach General Plan, which is a higher designation than a local landmark. There were six structures; there are now only four. The 1910 Mission (church) and the 1910 Manse (parsonage) were lost to fire of unknown origin on February 25, 2022.
RIGHT: The 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Mission (at right) and the 1910 Manse (parsonage) within the first few months of opening. Both were old growth redwood structures. The 1910 Mission was moved 95 years ago to the east of (left side) of the smaller 1910 Manse to provide congregants with more parking space along the dirt road now known as Nichols Lane. (Courtesy of Wintersburg Church, March 8, 1910) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Regarding the HBFD and HBPD stating there is "no evidence of a hate crime," that is a technical distinction which we understand.
- To clarify, there have been numerous reported online hate incidents and a few threats including anti-Asian hate targeting the Historic Wintersburg preservation project and myself personally that have been reported to the Huntington Beach police since 2016. One of those threats stated they would "burn it [Historic Wintersburg] f-ing down to a cinder."
- Republic Services was notified about online anti-Asian hate targeting Historic Wintersburg and referencing them by name and remained silent. They did not disavow it.
- The purpose of the multi-year online and public anti-Asian hate was a tactic to intimidate and discredit preservationists. Without local leaders speaking against this targeted hate, this environment can empower a property owner to continue their lack of care and lack of security for the property with what appears to be intentional demolition by neglect.
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
There is a record of written notifications to the property owner and City of evidence of trespassing, vandalism, break-ins, damage to buildings, removal of parts of structures, removal of artifacts from structures, and fire risk (lack of tree trimming and weed abatement) for the past decade, since 2011. These notifications frequently were met with no response.
LEFT: One of the incidents reported to Republic Services in 2017. The fence was cut and pried open on the northern end of the property, facing Warner Aveune. This was large enough for a person to enter the property. (Photo, M. Urashima, February 13, 2017) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BELOW RIGHT: One of the incidents of trespassing and risk to structures reported on March 7, 2017. The boarding on the 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Church was removed by transients and the building was left open. Inside the building was clothing and debris, and a Bunsen burner. (Photo, M. Urashima, March 7, 2017) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BELOW: Concerns such as this electrical "smart meter" were pointed out to then property owner Rainbow Environmental and later to Republic Services, who announced their purchase of the property on October 1, 2014. Prior to this property inspection on October 2, 2014, Southern California Edison had entered the property to remove older meters and install smart meters on both the shuttered 1913 Furuta bungalow and the shuttered 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Manse. Both structures had been shuttered prior to the purchase of the property by Rainbow Environmental in 2004, ten years earlier.
The meters were raised as a fire risk to Rainbow Environmental on October 2, 2014, and later to Republic Services, with questions about whether there was live electrical to obviously shuttered buildings.
This property inspection was conducted with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and expert preservation architects to develop a report on structural stabilization priorities. It was scheduled prior to Republic Services purchase, which was announced the previous day. (Photo, M. Urashima, October 2, 2014) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
One of the remaining concerns is the environment that was created during the public online anti-Asian social media concurrent with ongoing "demolition by neglect" and lack of security at the property. These are root causes for the fire for which questions still remain.
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The Historic Wintersburg blog focuses on an overlooked history in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, in the interest of saving a historic property from demolition. The author and publisher reserves the right not to publish comments. Please no promotional or political commentary. Zero tolerance for hate rhetoric. Comments with embedded commercial / advertising links or promoting other projects, books, or publications may not be published. If you have an interesting anecdote, question or comment about one of our features, it will be published.